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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2015, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. Any of the good initiatives that we see in the budget are strictly taken from NDP proposals that we have made public over the last many years and which we have been working on for many years. It adds to the proof that when we combine all budgets at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, the NDP has balanced the budget more often than any other party. The Conservatives are now promising balanced budget legislation but those are just words coming out of their mouths. As usual they are saying, “Please, believe us. We are going to do better”.

Our country deserves better. That is what the NDP is doing. We are going to continue fighting for Canadians. The presentation of this budget goes to prove that the NDP is the only party that is standing up and fighting for middle-class Canadians.

New Democrats are ready to form government. We are ready to write the budget next time around.

The Budget April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, from the outset I would like to let you know that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Hochelaga.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak today on this budget and on the NDP amendment. So many times in the House we have seen the movement of closure and time allocation, so I have not been able to speak on all of the motions and bills before the House, and I am very grateful that I have this opportunity today.

In an age of growing inequality, it seems that the Conservatives just want to help accelerate it. In Scarborough, my office hears about the need for jobs, the need for affordable and reliable transit, and the need for fairer immigration policies, among many other issues. Across Canada, communities are struggling to cope with major job losses.

In Scarborough, we are a fast-growing community. In 2011, there were about 616,000 people living in Scarborough. As an area, our average household income is below the provincial average, and so is per capita income. There are many people struggling to make ends meet in our community. We have many small and medium-sized businesses that are the real job creators. We have been waiting for a budget that meets our needs and priorities, but frankly, this is not the budget we need.

Canada's economy is not strong without a strong middle class, and Scarborough is home to many in the middle class. From this budget, it is clear that the Conservatives either do not understand the realities of middle-class Canadians or just do not care. Instead of taking action to help Canadians get ahead, the Conservatives are stubbornly pushing their schemes that would help only the richest 15% of Canadians.

The Conservatives simply do not understand the priorities of Scarborough and the priorities of Toronto. This region has lost hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs, yet the Conservatives have offered the bare minimum of support for manufacturing and have failed to build a balanced economy. Toronto alone has lost 24,600 jobs in the last six months and nearly 100,000 manufacturing jobs since the Prime Minister took office. The Conservatives have failed to build a balanced economy that works for our city.

Looking at the budget, it is clear that it would not address our city's looming affordable housing crisis either. It would fail to extend funding for social housing. The $150 million in the budget would not address the scope of the challenges facing our cities. Right now, there are 167,022 people on the City of Toronto's affordable housing wait list. Our city is committed to working on social housing, but it needs federal support to meet this glaring need.

However, something we do see in this budget is the government's income-splitting scheme, which the former finance minister, Mr. Flaherty, strongly opposed. Financial experts have warned that 85% of Canadians would get nothing at all from the Conservatives' income-splitting scheme, yet this is what the government has put forward. This wasteful and unfair policy would take billions from middle-class Canadians, who need the help the most, and hand it over to the richest 15%. This makes no sense at all when one in two Canadians lives paycheque to paycheque and countless others work full time but still fall below the poverty line.

For ten long years of the Conservative government, we have seen billions dumped into tax giveaways to the largest corporations and tax loopholes for CEO salaries. With rising inflation rates and storm clouds looming for our economy, most of us would not benefit from this income-splitting scheme, which is really there just for the wealthy few, or from the doubling of the TFSA limit, or from the tax loopholes for CEOs. These would not benefit most Canadians.

Where are the measures in this budget that support middle-class Canadians? We know that people are going to need strong supports if this storm materializes and our economy faces a further downturn.

We could benefit from closing the tax loopholes to fund the recent commitment to eliminate child poverty. My motion to eliminate child poverty was supported almost unanimously here in the House, but we do not really see any measures in this budget that work toward that goal.

Unfortunately, this budget continues the $700-million loophole for CEOs to avoid paying taxes on stock options, forcing ordinary Canadians to pay more.

We could provide a helping hand for parents looking for child care, return the retirement age to 65 from 67 for Canadian seniors, and create a $15 minimum wage so that people have more money in their pockets and support they can rely on.

I must mention some of the victories, which are measures that are actually good in this budget. I am pleased to see that NDP proposals, which the Conservative government voted down in the House already, have now, of course, shown up in the budget. These are measures such as decreasing taxes on small businesses, increasing the time working Canadians dedicate to caring for their ill loved ones, stimulus for investment in manufacturing, and extending basic workplace protections for interns. I am also glad to see the government act on the NDP proposal to extend the accelerated capital cost allowance for manufacturing investments and new equipment.

It is great that any of the positive measures in this budget are really all NDP proposals. This demonstrates to Canadians that clearly we are ready to be the government and should just write the entire budget next time around.

Small businesses have watched their tax rate drop 1% since the Conservatives took office, to 11% from 12%, while watching the corporate tax rate drop 7%, from 22% to now 15%, which included a now defunct surtax, over the same period. This budget proposes to drop the small business tax rate by 2% by 2019, which is exactly what the NDP had proposed, but the Conservative government voted against it. It would bring the tax rate for small and medium-sized enterprises from 11% to 9%. Nevertheless, it is good to see the government adopting another NDP proposal.

We also believe in extending basic workplace protections for interns, and I commend the government for supporting this NDP initiative also. Again, I wonder why the government just recently voted down the same measures in my New Democrat colleague's private member's bill, but it is what it is.

The Conservatives have brought forward the NDP proposal for seniors for registered retirement income funds, RRIFs, and have reduced the amount seniors must withdraw from their RRIFs so that they are not forced to deplete dangerous amounts of their savings.

However, the Conservatives have broken their word to seniors on pensions, and this budget shows no sign of their changing course. The current government plans to raise the retirement age for old age security from 65 to 67, and the Conservatives have blocked progress to boost CPP and QPP benefits.

Finally, the budget accepts the long-time NDP proposal on the employment insurance compassionate care benefit that would extend it from six weeks to six months, which will begin in January 2016. I am very happy to see another NDP initiative brought forward in this budget.

However, I would be remiss if I did not mention at this point that access to employment insurance has dropped to historic lows following cuts by the current Conservative government, leaving many Canadians unemployed and unable to get the support they need. Sadly, this budget does nothing to ameliorate that situation.

I also believe that this budget is short-sighted at a time when Canada needs vision. What are we passing on or leaving behind to future generations?

The Conservatives plan to double the annual contribution limit for the tax-free savings account to $10,000. This is another unfair scheme that only helps the rich. Most Canadians can only dream of those kinds of savings. Worse yet, this measure will cost Canadians $20 billion over the next four decades. The response from the Minister of Finance that our grandchildren will deal the problem is simply unacceptable. It is not responsible to burden our grandchildren with this $20-billion problem just because this government wants to create another venue for their wealthy friends to put away more money. I wish the Minister of Finance thought of the vast majority of people living in Toronto who just cannot afford to part with $10,000 every year.

According to one of the new reports from the Metcalf Foundation, authored by one of my constituents, John Stapleton, on the working poor, 63 of Toronto's census tracts show an increase in working poverty rates between 2006 and 2012, while only 14 show a decrease. In 2012, the report noted, there was a major deepening of the incidence of working poverty in census tracts for the northern parts of Toronto, representing a constituency that is only north Scarborough. This is very concerning for me and the constituents I represent.

I would have liked to have had more time to go through more issues, such as gridlock and more instances of poverty. I hope someone will follow up with that in the questions and answers.

Petitions April 28th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present petitions on behalf of constituents in Scarborough—Rouge River who understand the struggles because of gridlock and the importance of the creation of a public transit strategy nationally in this country. Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy, and it is estimated that over the next five years, there will be an $18-billion gap in transit infrastructure needs.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to enact a Canada public transit strategy that seeks to provide permanent investments to support public transit; to establish federal funding mechanisms for sustainable, predictable, long-term, adequate funding for public transit; and to ensure that all levels of government are working together.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for giving me this opportunity to remind him, through his own words, that just repeating falsehoods does not make them true. Every member of the Conservative Party and the current government should learn from the words of the parliamentary secretary, that repeating falsehoods never makes them true.

However, I will give the member an expert opinion, because, of course, we like to consider the opinions of lawyers and those who know the law better than probably most of us in this place.

Yes, the parliamentary secretary is correct in the sense that government members only accepted four amendments, and these are amendments that came from themselves. The only change that happened on the piece that he spoke of is a change from the words “legal protest” to “protest”.

However, the piece that remained, that I mentioned in my speech, and maybe he missed it, is that any acts that block infrastructure could be subject to disruption and covered as part of this anti-terror legislation. That is the truth. It is not a falsehood, it has been clarified by many experts, and that is what I speak of.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for York South—Weston for his passion and sincerity in knowing what happened to the Tamil people.

I remember that this was a youth-led, legal protest that happened across the country, specifically in Toronto, where young people, seniors, children, human rights activists from all parts of the world and Tamils living in Toronto were on the streets for two weeks every day. It seemed like their cries for help and support, and for the current government to do something, fell on deaf ears. Out of pure frustration, the people decided to walk up the Gardiner Expressway and blockade it. They got attention. They finally got the people and the government to listen.

However, under Bill C-51, that activity would be classified as an act of terror. We would see hundreds of thousands of children, seniors and families classified as terrorists in this country, and that just does not make any sense.

Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today I rise again to voice my opposition to Bill C-51 in its current form.

Each one of us knows terrorism is a real threat and we are all committed to keeping Canadians safe. However, Bill C-51 remains a reckless, dangerously vague and likely ineffective piece of proposed legislation. It would not do things that are proven to work and it puts politics ahead of protecting Canadians.

The members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security heard testimony from a range of experts. Many of these experts raised serious concerns about provisions in Bill C-51. The government also received amendments from the official opposition New Democrats and other parties. The government rejected the substance of these amendments. The government did make four amendments to the bill. Unfortunately, these amendments would do little to address the major concerns Canadians and experts have consistently raised about this bill.

Therefore, I stand proudly with my New Democrat colleagues as we continue to stand for privacy, national security, oversight and our civil liberties, while working to make our country safe from terrorism by advocating an evidence-based approach to anti-terrorism legislation.

In regard to privacy, 12 Canadian privacy commissioners have publicly criticized Bill C-51, but not one privacy commissioner was invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. These are the public authorities on privacy and should have been heard. In a written submission to the committee, Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, wrote:

However, the scale of information sharing being proposed [by Bill C-51] is unprecedented, the scope of the new powers conferred by the Act is excessive, particularly as these powers affect ordinary Canadians, and the safeguards protecting against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient. While the potential to know virtually everything about everyone may well identify some new threats, the loss of privacy is clearly excessive. All Canadians would be caught in this web.

Under the proposed legislation, law-abiding citizens could find their information shared by federal departments and agencies with intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the Privacy Commissioner stated that Bill C-51 does not prescribe clear and reasonable standards for the sharing, collection, use and retention of personal information. Canadians have a legitimate right to privacy.

How can the government be so reckless with the personal information of Canadians? How can it allow the sharing of information without proper oversight and clear standards regarding the necessity for the sharing of this information? Furthermore, experts such as Craig Forcese have pointed out that Bill C-51 also would erode the individual's right to legal recourse. Under Bill C-51, as long as Canadian government officials share information in good faith, if people are tortured or their livelihoods lost, these individuals could not sue the Canadian government.

We were shocked and saddened by the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was tortured in Syria because of the information that was shared about him. Maher Arar was able to use legal recourse to get an apology and compensation from the government. If Bill C-51 becomes law, if anything like what happened to Maher Arar happened in the future, there would be no legal recourse for Canadians. As a nation, we should be ensuring that what happened to Maher Arar never happens again to another Canadian. We need to do that by ensuring there is oversight, and that the rights of our citizens are protected. We should not be allowing information to be shared with a little oversight and then stripping away the ways in which Canadians can hold their government accountable.

As I have stated in prior remarks, I am also concerned about the potential impacts of Bill C-51 on Canadians' freedom of speech and the right to protest. One of the four amendments that the government members accepted at committee stage changed the language to say that activity that undermines the security of Canada does not include advocacy, protest, dissent or artistic expression. However, any act that blocks infrastructure could be subject to disruption and covered as part of this anti-terrorism legislation.

In 2009, before I became a member of Parliament, many members of the Tamil community and other human rights activists were out on the streets trying to raise awareness about innocent people being killed in Sri Lanka. Each day in Ottawa, Toronto, and other cities across the country, people were engaging in lawful protest asking for the Canadian government to listen and take action.

On May 10, 2009, some of the protestors blockaded the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. According to our experts, under Bill C-51, the blockade of the Gardiner Expressway could have been considered an activity that undermines the security of Canada, classified as blocking infrastructure and covered under this anti-terrorism legislation. On May 10, 2009, people blockaded the Gardiner Expressway to bring attention to people being displaced and killed senselessly in Sri Lanka. Should these people, seniors, children and families, who blockaded the Gardiner Expressway be called terrorists and subjected to additional surveillance? Is that fair?

In January 2013, six youths and a guide left on snowshoes on a walk to Ottawa in support of the Idle No More movement. They called their trek the Journey of the Nishiyuu, which means the “journey of the people” in Cree. In the final hours of the trek, the group numbered nearly 400 people, as other children and youth from Cree and Algonquin communities joined them along the way. I remember being one of the thousands more who joined them here on Parliament Hill as their journey came to an end. As people joined the trek, perhaps streets were blocked and traffic snarled. Should these youth be called terrorists and subject to additional surveillance?

We must make sure that the voices of people can be heard. We must make sure that dissent and protest are protected in our country. We must allow for the freedom of speech to remain a charter-protected right in our country. We cannot allow non-violent acts to be called terrorism, because they are not terrorism. They are non-violent acts that can help build our civic infrastructure and can result in positive changes in policies.

This omnibus bill is 62 pages long and its scope is unprecedented. I could continue to talk for a lot longer about the many ways in which the bill threatens the civil liberties we hold dear, but I think the point has been made, and I am sure I am running out of time. This bill remains reckless, vague, and likely ineffective.

What are some proven approaches to combat terrorism that are more likely to be effective? I will name a few from what the experts have cited.

The first is to provide appropriate resources for security and intelligence agencies to track and identify threats to public security. Former Ottawa police chief and current Senator Vern White said:

My biggest concern right now is, do we have the resources to focus energy on [radicalized] people out there that are concerning us? I’m not convinced we have those resources.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson testified before the Senate that he has reallocated resources including hundreds of personnel from areas such as organized crime to counter terrorism. Why would the police not have adequate resources to fight terror? Organized crime also presents a public safety threat to Canada, so why is the RCMP being forced to make these reallocations? We know that between 2009 and 2014, annual RCMP spending decreased by $420 million, and between 2012 and 2014, 2,271 full-time equivalent positions were cut from the RCMP. In 2012-13, CSIS spending was cut by $44 million.

A second proven approach to combat terrorism that is more likely to be effective is oversight. Over the past five years, oversight mechanisms that are meant to hold the security and intelligence agencies accountable have faced cuts, and positions have been left vacant. Now Bill C-51 would further expand surveillance and the capacity to detain people, but does not expand oversight. Oversight could mean more diligence on the part of the security agents themselves, knowing that oversight bodies are in place.

A third measure is counter-radicalization programs. Working with at-risk communities and connecting with community and faith leaders to provide resources to defuse radicalization in integral parts of our communities is an integral part of proven anti-terror programs.

I know I am running out of time, so I just want to say that today I am proud to be standing with my New Democrat colleagues as we take our responsibility to stand up for Canada seriously. We are disappointed, though, that the third party Liberals seem to believe that supporting this bill and giving the Conservatives a blank cheque is the best way to protect Canadian freedoms. I am proud that the New Democrats are taking a principled stance and not supporting Bill C-51. We will continue to defend both our rights and our freedoms in this country.

Canada Post April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, Canadians have made it very clear that they are opposed to the Conservative cuts to our postal service. Yesterday, protesters even followed the Prime Minister to Winnipeg to condemn the cuts to home delivery that so many Canadians rely on.

Canada Post made millions in profits last year, which just underlines how wrong the Conservatives were to cut home delivery. Will they now do the right thing for our communities and halt their reckless cuts to our postal services?

Armenian Genocide April 24th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, today marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. A century ago, the world stood silent, while more than 1.5 million Armenians were killed.

In recognizing this terrible event 11 years ago, the House passed a motion to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915 and to condemn this act as a crime against humanity On this 100th anniversary, we again remember the suffering of those men, women and children, and mourn their loss.

This dark period of our history cannot be forgotten. Nor can we look aside from the ongoing suffering of countless other atrocities and crimes against humanity around the world.

Today, we join with thousands of Canadians of Armenian origin to remember the victims of this tragedy and to recommit to protecting fundamental human rights and dignity for all. Together, we stand united.

[Member spoke in Armenian]

Petitions April 23rd, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I rise today because communities like mine in Scarborough, especially in north Scarborough, only have access to public transit at a surface level such as buses.

People in my community realize the importance of creating a Canada public transit strategy because Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy. It is estimated that over the next five years there will be an $18-billion gap in transit infrastructure funding.

The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada to enact a Canada public transit strategy that seeks to provide a permanent investment plan to support public transit; to establish federal funding mechanisms for public transit; to work together with all levels of government to provide sustainable, predictable, long-term and adequate funding; and to establish accountability measures to ensure that all governments work together to increase access to public transit.

I know how very important and needed it is in my community in Scarborough—Rouge River and all of the northern and eastern parts of Scarborough, so I am very pleased to present this petition on their behalf.

Government Appointments April 21st, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it seems that even in an election year, the Conservatives just cannot break their addiction to partisan appointments. Just last week it was revealed that the government appointed a former Conservative candidate and donor to the the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal. It is critical that judges in this position are truly independent and impartial. They are deciding cases that involve public servants blowing the whistle on the government. Why did the minister insist on a partisan Conservative nomination for this important post?